“Public disgrace, punishment, humiliation, and torture are scientifically proven to improve motivation, reading skills, and test scores.”
I can see why I don’t have a political blog. Whenever I start to write about an “issue” such as my previous post on public schools, I can’t help but focus on my own childhood memories no matter how much I try not to! Of course, we know that the personal IS political so I’m not sure why I even try to keep my reminiscences to a minimum—this is my blog, after all, not the New York Times!
One reason why I could never write a traditional political blog is because whenever I try to discuss the current administration in a rationale manner, it only takes about two minutes until I am frothing at the mouth and experiencing a dangerous rise in my blood pressure. I realize that I may not be adding to the national dialogue on education policy when I refer to our elected officials using phrases like “the anti-Christ.”
But cooler heads do prevail, and the raison d’etre for my previous post was to mention one of them. There is SO much wrong with what’s happening in Washington right now, but do you ever wish you had the ability to talk about just one area of our government’s folly with intelligence and cold hard facts? To download the bullet points for your next cocktail party in a red state, you need go no further than Susan Ohanian.Org, an indispensable site put together by educator, author, and muckraker Susan Ohanian. The site includes the “Outrage of the Day” which shows, through real-life stories, how Bush’s misguided education policies are causing untold damage to schools, teachers, and kids. Today’s outrage comes from a high school English teacher who was forced by her Florida school district to abandon Shakespeare, Dickens, Poe, Hawthorne, poetry, and creative writing in favor of a curriculum exclusively geared to preparing kids for the FCAT (Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test). She was told she was no longer allowed to teach novels but had to use soul-killing test-length nonfiction passages and provide direct instruction “from bell to bell.” She was reprimanded for allowing her students to read silently in class and for not saying the word FCAT enough during instructional time. This gifted educator is quitting the teaching profession at the end of this school year. Sadly, her case is all too typical. Go to Susan’s website to learn about the intricacies of the No Child Left Behind Act (don’t be fooled by the clever title). You can read great stories about how brave people are resisting the insanity, and order a fun CD full of protest songs called "No Child Left Behind? Bring Back the Joy." All the proceeds from the CD go to a wonderful organization in Birmingham, Alabama, called the World of Opportunity (WOO), created when over 500 students were pushed out of Birmingham public schools just before a big high-stakes test.
Needless to say, I recommend Heinemann books as one antidote to the wrong-headed policies that are sweeping our nation. Two of Susan Ohanian’s books that I love are “One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Educational Standards” and “Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids and a Killing Curriculum.” Or check out Crystal England's new "Divided We Fail: Issues of Equity in American Schools."
I keep writing and deleting paragraphs about Bush and his minions. I better stop because I’m starting to froth at the mouth so badly that I might scare Leah and force Kendall to give me a rabies shot. To counteract that bile, I’ll mention another of my educational heroes—my colleague Lois Bridges. Lois is one of those rare people who is able to articulate her beliefs quietly and firmly, without the slightest trace of white foam forming at the edges of her mouth. She has a profound understanding of how kids learn best and can speak at the drop of a hat about why the policies of the current administration are proving life-threatening to our nation’s schools. You only have to look at Lois’s three kids to see the extent to which she walks her talk. They are so politically aware, so socially conscious that whenever I hear about their latest activities I end up feeling like a fat cat industrialist putting my cigar out on the face of one of my oppressed workers. Lois has a son still in high school, a daughter in college, and one that’s a recent graduate, but between the three of them they’ve already volunteered in more Third World countries than Mother Teresa. Knowing that amazing young people like these three exist helps me breathe a little easier, especially after a Sunday wandering around Los Angeles seeing so many kids in their teens and 20s with plastic surgery scars and permanent cell phone indentations on their cheeks. I can’t help but think of some of the folks I encountered at that insane birthday party Leah went to last weekend at the Beverly Hills Hotel. If Lois’s kids lived here they probably would have formed a picket line.